Recess Isn’t Just for Kids

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Adults typically think of recess as something only kids do. Only kids go out in the middle of the day and run around to blow off some steam. (Unfortunately, even this isn’t true anymore as many schools have cut recess in order to focus more on mandatory testing. But that’s a rant for another day.) Adults are far too busy and important to have recess. Plus, it would look silly to go out and play in the middle of the day.

I would argue that recess is important for all ages. It’s just not natural to sit at a desk for eight hours a day, whether you’re six or sixty. Humans aren’t built to sit still like that for long stretches. It’s bad for your health. Your mind gets fogged up if you don’t change things up every now and then. You get irritable and fidgety. Sound familiar? It sounds just like the reasons kids get recess, right? Humans of any age need to get up, get out, and move around. What better way to do it than with a little recess time?

Yes, you can lace up your shoes and go for a run at lunch and feel virtuous that you’re getting in your workout as well as getting away from the desk for a few minutes. But if you’re doing it because you “have to” (and that’s what most workouts feel like), then it’s not recess. Remember when you were a kid and recess was for doing whatever you wanted to do? You could play on the swings, play a game with your friends, or sit and read on a bench. PE was for doing the crap you had to do. Recess was for fun and doing pointless things “just because.” Going running because you want to squeeze in your workout? That’s PE. Taking a stroll around the lake to see the baby ducklings in the spring? That’s recess.

I realize that there are problems with adults having recess time. The first problem is that there might not be anywhere to go to get out and about for a while. Depending on where you work, this can be a problem, but almost every place has some way to make it work. Maybe you can ask the boss if you can buy a dartboard or a cornhole-type game and set it up in an unused room. Do you have a little strip of lawn out front where two people can go out and kick a soccer ball between them? If you really can’t think of anything active to do, maybe someone could bring board/card games to play during lunch. Or you can find a sunny window and read. At least it breaks the monotony, even if it’s not physical. Get creative. There’s probably some way to get a little recess time at work.

Recess Swing

Second, there’s the problem of time. A thirty minute lunch may not be enough time to both eat and play. Maybe you can work out a compromise where you eat at your desk and save your thirty minutes for a little play. Or maybe you can still squeeze in fifteen minutes of recess if you eat a little faster.

If you just can’t make recess work during your workday, try to get it in later in the day. Maybe you do your primary workout in the morning, but then in the evening you play outside with your kids, get involved in a pick up basketball game at the local courts, or stop at the park on the way home for a quick stroll around the path. Yes, it’s ideal if you can get away from work for a little while, but there’s also something to be said for taking a little recess time to clear your head and blow off your frustrations as you transition from work to home. After all, no one likes the roommate or partner who comes home and gripes about work all night.

If you’re worried about people looking at you funny, you don’t have to play on a playground at recess. (Although there’s nothing wrong with it. I go to the park and hit the swings pretty regularly just for fun.) You can engage in any sort of play: Whack a tennis ball against the backboard. Stroll around the botanical gardens. Play Frisbee with your friends or kick a soccer ball around. Shoot some free throws. Just stand outside and talk to friends. Sit on a bench and read.

Whatever you do, do it because you want to, not because it has a purpose or is required. Do it because it’s fun. And try to mix up your activities. If you’re doing the same thing all the time, you’re skirting PE territory because eventually you’ll start to think, “OK, now I have to go out and shoot forty free throws,” or, “Crap, I haven’t done my stroll around the lake today,” and it becomes just another obligation, not recess.

Recess is good for the body and the mind. Keeping active keeps you healthy and gives you a chance to blow off some steam. Getting away from your desk, your to do list, and technology relaxes you and gives your brain a chance to shut down for a little while, refreshing you for the rest of the day. Getting a bit silly during your recess time does all of the above. Changing things up during the day helps keep you sharper, too, as different activities work your brain in different ways. So if the boss gives you flack for wanting a little recess in the day, remind him or her that playing a little bit will make you a better employee. If you’re really feeling brave, ask the boss to join you and remind him that doing so will make him a better boss, too.


(Photos courtesy of Archbob, LCosgrove)

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